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Monday, January 16, 2012
Owners vs Users of Water: aka Mullaperiyar
From the Times of India:
Controversy has dogged the masonry dam since its completion in 1895 by British engineers to address water scarcity in southern Tamil Nadu. The waters of Mullayar and Periyar that are dammed at Mullaperiyar originate in Kerala (then the kingdom of Travancore). The British government reportedly pressurised the then Travancore king to sign a treaty that provided for a 999-year lease of roughly 8,000 hectares of land to Madras Presidency to construct the dam. Water from the reservoir is taken down the steep, eastern face of the Western Ghats to Tamil Nadu, into Vaigai, a rain-fed river which is the lifeline of southern Tamil Nadu.
This daring piece of engineering turned an arid region into a fertile plain. With water, crops and cropping patterns changed. Ballads celebrate the contribution of chief engineer Colonel John Pennycuick who supervised the project. Villages here are dotted with Pennycuick Peravais (forums). Farmers in Cumbum Valley offer prayers before pictures of Cuick before sowing and harvest to this day. Mullaperiyar is not just a dam but an emotion here.
However, many in Kerala believe that Mullaperiyar water was forcibly diverted to Tamil Nadu. This grievance, often aired in irresponsible language including by senior politicians, is one reason why Tamil Nadu is wary of Keralas genuine concern about dam safety. At present, the dam is controlled and maintained by Tamil Nadu. But would Kerala cede sufficient water in the case of a new dam, which would also necessitate a new water treaty? Though Kerala swears it will, Tamil Nadu is not convinced.
Anybody have images of pictures of Pennycuick. No wonder Tamil Nadu never got in too deep in it's opposition of British rule. Tamizhians essentially lost all the Dravidian infighting wars and were receded to the desert portions of the South with no access to water. Only the British took care of their interests. Karnataka has already started diversity Mysore dam waters in a big way, including upstream. Let see how this plays out in non arid Kerala.